Thanatopsis By William Cullen Bryant Essay

832 words - 3 pages

The poem “Thanatopsis” by William Cullen Bryant reveals a very unusual aspect of nature. While most people think of nature as beauty and full of life, Bryant takes a more interesting approach to nature. He exposes a correlation between nature, life, death, and re-birth. Using nature as a foothold, Bryant exercises methods such as tone, setting, and imagery in a very intriguing way while writing “Thanatopsis.”
First, tone is a very important aspect of the poem “Thanatopsis.” While reading the poem, the reader may feel a slight change in the tone of the poem. At first the poem seems as though it were about nature and its beauty. For example, in the poem Bryant writes “She has a voice of gladness, and a smile/And eloquence of beauty, and she glides.”(4-5) Here, the tone is happy and elegant. Also, the reader is under the impression that nature is a safe and beautiful place. However, as the reader continues on, one may notice a sudden shift in tone. Bryant writes, “Into his darker musings, with a mild/And gentle sympathy, that steals away/ Their sharpness, ere he is aware.”(6-8) Here, the tone shifts to dark and gloomy. Throughout the poem Bryant uses numerous words or phrases that relate to death. One very noticeable instance of this is in lines nine and 11. Bryant uses the words such as shroud, pall, and narrow house. Shroud and pall are both word related to coffins. A shroud is a cloth used to wrap a body before burial. A pall is the cover to a coffin. This depicts the sinister and dim thoughts that a person may have about death. The long narrow house is referring to the long, dark grave that the dead are lowered into. By the end of the poem there is another shift in tone. The tone takes on a more hopeful meaning. Now, Bryant uses the spring season to compare to a new age. He mentions, “The youth in life's green spring, and he who goes/ In the full strength of years, matron, and maid,/ The bow'd with age, the infant in the smiles.”(68-70) The rebirth of human life compares to nature in the sense that when nature is reborn in springtime everything turns green. The reader ends the poem with an enlightened sense of feeling instead of the dark and gloomy feeling they felt at the beginning of the poem.
Another technique that Bryant uses in “Thanatopsis” is setting. This entire poem takes place somewhere in nature. However, when both aspects of the poem are looked into, the poem...

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